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British Firm Will Purchase Addison-Wesley Publishing

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A British conglomerate partly owned by the publishing mogul Rupert Murdoch has agreed to purchase the Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, the ninth-largest publisher of school textbooks in the United States.

The $238-million deal announced last week will make the British company, Pearson plc, one of the largest publishers in the world.

It will also strengthen the ability of Addison-Wesley to compete in the elementary and secondary textbook market, according to Donald R. Hammonds, chairman and chief executive officer of the Reading, Mass., company.

The agreement "seemed to us to provide a unique opportunity to continue our mission, but with greater scope and considerably enhanced financial resources," he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Addison-Wesley will merge with the British company's educational-book subsidiary, Longman Holdings Ltd., a leading publisher of textbooks in the United Kingdom.

The new company will be called Addison-Wesley Longman.

Combined sales from the new entity are expected to total about $425- million a year, according to Tim Rix, chairman and chief executive officer of Longman.

In addition to Longman, Pearson also has interests in Penguin Books, a major trade-book publisher; several newspapers, including the Finan4cial Times of London; Royal Doulton China; and Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

The purchase price for Addison-Wesley was higher than that for other textbook companies that have recently changed hands, said J. Kendrick Noble, a textbook-industry analyst for the investment firm Paine Webber.

The price, he said, reflects a growing interest in American publishing firms among European companies. Last year, for example, a West German company, Bertlesman A.G., acquired Doubleday & Company Inc.

And Mr. Murdoch--an Australian-born newspaperman with extensive British and American media holdings--last year bought Harper & Row Publishers Inc.

Mr. Noble noted, however, that Addison-Wesley is the first company known primarily as a schoolbook publisher to have been purchased by a European company in nearly a decade.

Robert Maxwell, the British publisher, last year made an unsuccessful bid for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., one of the largest American textbook companies.

Despite the recent wave of takeovers in the publishing industry, a number of textbook firms, including Houghton Mifflin Company, Macmillan Publishing Company Inc., and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, remain independently owned, Mr. Noble noted.--rr

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